“This is what gives art its essential lustre:
it transplants us here and now
into the spiritual world.”
— Rudolf Steiner 
What Lies Behind the Arts at Waldorf Schools
with a look at festivals
Waldorf schools place great emphasis on the arts. The rationale is not aesthetic. Rather, Rudolf Steiner taught that various art forms have spiritual — even magical — properties.
For Steiner, the highest art is eurythmy (which, not coincidentally, he invented). Eurythmy is a form of bodily movement that looks a bit like slow-motion modern dance, but actually it is intended to teach the proper stances to manifest spiritual states of being — calling upon influences from our past lives and preparing the basis for our future lives. (The main tenet, here, is reincarnation, a belief that can be found at the root of many Waldorf practices.)
According to Steiner, eurythmy enables the physical body to make direct connection with the spiritual realm. Our physical bodies are, in a sense, merely tools that enable us to do eurythmy. Eurythmy gives outward form to the inner meaning of language — it is often called "visible speech." In the process, it gives us access to aspects of our previous lives, and it creates — in our limbs — effects that will carry over into our next lives.
Here is an explanation by Steiner, couched in his typically difficult mystical terminology. “In a certain sense, we take from earthly life only the physical medium, the actual human being who is the tool or instrument for eurythmy.* But we allow this human being to make manifest what we study inwardly, what is already prepared in us as a result of previous lives;** we transfer this to our limbs, which are the part of us where life after death is being shaped in advance.*** Eurythmy shapes and moves the human organism in a way that furnishes direct external proof of our participation in the supersensible world. In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.”**** 
At the Waldorf school that I attended, we did eurythmy while manipulating therapeutic copper rods and holding our pelvises strictly still. Occasionally, we prepared eurythmic performances for school assemblies. In my class’s first such performance, coming in about the third or fourth grade, we enacted the creation of the world — the emergence of light, the separation of light from darkness, the separation of dry land from the waters, and so on. We portrayed angels and archangels and the fulfillment of God’s commands. (In a wholly nonsectarian, non-denominational way, of course. Waldorf schools usually deny that they have a religious agenda.)
In sum, eurythmy is Anthroposophy set in motion. It is the enactment of the Waldorf religion, Anthroposophy.
* That is to say, our physical bodies enable us to do eurythmy. When we die, we leave our physical bodies but we take with us the effects of our physical lives. (Implicitly, eurythmy improves our physical lives and thus it improves what we take with us into our lives after death.)
** Doing eurythmy means making manifest the spiritual influences we brought from our previous lives.
*** Our limbs (used so much in eurythmy) are the parts of us that shape our coming lives in the spirit realm after death.
**** Doing eurythmy connects us directly to the spiritual or "supersensible" realm (the realm that lies beyond or above the reach of our senses).
Crucial as eurythmy may be, other forms of art are also emphasized at Waldorf schools. At my school, we were taught to produce misty watercolor paintings with no straight lines or clear definitions. This was wet-on-wet watercoloring (wet brushes spreading watery paint over wet paper), a technique that effectively prevents a child from creating recognizable images of the real world, especially when only large, wide brushes are used. There was certainly something otherworldly about the images we created, bearing no resemblance to ordinary physical reality. Our paintings were in effect talismanic representations of the spirit realm — rich in color but devoid of harsh lines and clear-cut forms:
The paints we used in our watercoloring were, from an Anthroposophical perspective, magical: Their hues provided entree into the spirit realm while simultaneously providing spiritual beings with access to our world. “We have seen that colours...are windows through which we can ascend spiritually into the spiritual world....”  Children using colorful paints are being directed toward such windows, according to Steiner. But, also, the colors bring spirit entities into the room. Thus, a clairvoyant can find different spiritual beings in a rooms of varying colors: “In a red room, other beings become visible than in a blue room.... ”  The use of color, in other words, is supposed to be a major part of a child’s spiritual training. This also helps explain why Waldorf classrooms are often painted in varying colors, here a beige room, there a pink or green room. The colored walls are meant to pull the students into varying spiritual states:
The main point for us at the moment is that, at Waldorf schools, colors are not used for art’s sake. Instead, the students are led to perform actions, such as painting, that are intended to lead them toward occult spiritual “truths.” And they do this in rooms that are often intended to direct particular spiritual entities toward them. If you are a believer in spiritual entities and states, you may like the sound of all this. But perhaps you should ask yourself whether Steiner’s versions of these matters are consistent with yours. If you are an orthodox Christian, Muslim, or Jew — or a follower of almost any other major faith — they are not.
* In Waldorf belief, humans have both spirits and souls, and there are spirit and soul worlds in the spirit realm. The combination of our spiritual natures is sometimes called the "spirit-soul."
** The human soul knows forms as found in the physical universe only while it is incarnated in a physical body or briefly thereafter.
*** The spirit realm (from which we descend to be born on Earth) has no forms or lines, but it has qualities such as color. Steiner develops this idea further in the next sentence: The spirit realm is a place of light, color, tones, qualities, intensities — it is permeated by soul and spirit.
**** This is an allusion to reincarnation. In Waldorf belief, we alternate lives on Earth with lives in the spirit realm. In Anthroposophy, life on Earth is often called life between birth and death; life in the spirit realm is often called life between death and birth.
As you might expect, music is also not simply an art, according to Rudolf Steiner. It is steeped in mystical power. A music class, like a painting class, like a eurythmy class, is actually a cultic ritual — or so Steiner intended.
Steiner explained that composers get their musical ideas while asleep, during which time the higher parts of their beings leave their physical bodies and travel into the spirit world.
In essence, Steiner says that composers go to the spirit realm, hear melodies there, and then translate these melodies to forms we can hear with our physical ears. Music is thus inherently spiritual.
In Waldorf belief, people who play or listen to music are theoretically being lured toward occult spiritual experiences. “[O]n listening to music, he has an inkling...of the spiritual world.”  Steiner is speaking, in this passage, of the composer listening to music. But other listeners share a similar spiritual experience: Composers are not the only ones who hear spiritual harmonies at night. Children in a Waldorf music class are actually being ushered toward esoteric mysteries. Steiner taught that musical tones operate much like colors, providing access to the spirit realm. Bear in mind that Steiner wasn’t speaking metaphorically — he meant this quite literally. A child listening to or making music is moved to the occult world of spirits. “The world of sound will deepen and enliven the life of the soul in a very similar way ... We shall experience the tone [i.e., a musical note] as an opening made by the gods from the spiritual world, and we shall climb through the tone into the spiritual world.” 
Just as a parent may initially like Steiner’s statements about spiritual entities and color, it is quite possible that a parent may agree with Steiner that music can enliven a student’s soul. But, once again, I would urge you to be sure that Steiner’s literal meaning is acceptable to you. His version of spirituality includes not only reincarnation but also multiple gods (“an opening made by the gods”). Anthroposophy is polytheistic, gnostic, occult. If you want your child to be led toward polytheism, gnosticism, and occultism, well and good. But if you don’t, a Waldorf school may not be the best place for your child.
* In Waldorf belief, we have three invisible bodies in addition to our physical bodies. The astral body is the second of the three invisible bodies.
** That is, the spirit realm. ("Devachan" is Sanskrit for the heavenly realm, the home of the devas or gods.)
*** Note Steiner’s use of the word “secret.” Occultism centers on secrets: knowledge that initiates have but the rest of us don’t. This is the basis of Steiner’s claim to being a spiritual guide: He possessed secrets. To a lesser extent, Waldorf teachers who are devoted to Steiner’s doctrines believe that they share such secrets. And secrets don’t remain secret if they are revealed to others, for instance to you.
“Epic poetry turns to the upper gods, drama to the lower gods. True drama shows the divine world lying below the earth ... In contrast, epic poetry sees the spiritual world sink down." 
From the Waldorf perspective, literary art has spiritual effects like all other arts. “The question I have in mind is ... ‘What is the actual positive reason for introducing art into our lives?’ It is only during our materialistic age that...we have forgotten the supersensible origin of art.”  According to Steiner, “supersensible” phenomena are imperceptible to our regular senses but quite clear to clairvoyants like himself. Art of all types comes from the supersensible world — the spirit realm, the devachanic world — and it leads us back to that world.
In some ways, literature is even more potent than other arts, because it consists of words that convey meaning. According to Steiner, the effect of literature is to carry us toward “truths” that need no logical confirmation. “We experience poetry much more externally than architecture or sculpture ... We actually forget time and space, or at least space, and are lifted out of ourselves ... Supersensible knowledge can be described as a transformation of ordinary abstract knowledge ... It is nonsense to require the same sort of logical, pedantic, narrow-minded proof of things in higher realms as is desirable in the crasser realms of the sciences, mathematics, and so forth.” 
The arts are not a place for narrow-minded proof — this is true enough. But does it then follow that what we receive from art is truer than what we receive from science or math? Steiner’s system requires us to stop thinking logically and instead immerse ourselves in fuzzy states of mind — dreamy, colorful, harmonic — where we will become spiritually initiated. Confession: I was an English major in college and later I became member of a college English department. I believe in the power of literature. But that is quite different from believing that any form of art trumps reasoning as a way to learn about reality. If you doubt me, I’ll hand the microphone back to Steiner. Here is a statement he made about novels written by blacks:
Some Anthroposophists have claimed that the remark I’ve just quoted is a joke. If so, it is a “joke” that only a racist would tell or find amusing. But I submit that the remark is serious, not a stab at humor. Steiner was perfectly consistent in arguing that art has spiritual origins and spiritual effects. And he taught that the physical world is imbued with spiritual realities (such as the beings clairvoyants see in colored rooms). A novel, then, comes from spiritual sources and has spiritual effects extending into the physical realm. A novel written by a “Negro” carries “Negro” spiritual powers, which would — according to Steiner’s thinking — have injurious effects for white readers (who are more spiritually advanced, according to Steiner). 
For more about the uses and misuses of literature in Waldorf schools, see “Oh My Word”.
Other Arts, All Arts
Among the doctrines Steiner adopted from various religions are karma and reincarnation. Focusing on these concepts helps us to comprehend what Steiner meant about art arising from the spirit realm.
Art comes out of our nightly excursions into the spirit realm, and it also comes out of our previous lives in the spirit realm. We live in that realm between our earthly lives, according to Steiner. The spirit realm leaves its marks on us (Steiner taught that children are born with memories of the spirit realm — see “Thinking Cap”). During our lives on Earth, we are visitors from a faraway place that we often revisit. We go there during our many hours of sleep and during our communings with the powers of art. Art helps us to make our return visits, and it provides us with links to the great beyond during our periods of physical existence on Earth.
So there you have it. “Now we have a realistic answer to the question why human beings create art.”  Art at Waldorf schools is a vehicle for occult beliefs. What we get from art are secret “truths” that need no proof, but that Rudolf Steiner possessed. According to him. Hardly anybody else has ever known as many occult secrets as he knew. According to him.
If you are a mainstream Jew, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, or rationalist, you may have great difficulty accepting Steiner’s statements on these matters. In that case, you probably should steer clear of schools where Steiner’s doctrines are honored. Occultism and true faith are quite different, as are occultism and rationality. There are traces of many religions in Steiner's doctrines, but they exist alongside doctrines that violate each major faith. There are traces of science and reason in Steiner's doctrines, but only faint traces, engulfed in baseless mysticism. Steiner advocated the occult and the irrational. We find this everywhere we look in his doctrines, including his discussions of art.
* When we are born on Earth ("the world of the physical senses"), we carry within us the effects of our previous lives in the spirit realm (our "prebirth experiences"). The art we create in the physical realm embodies our unconscious memories from the spirit realm ("life between death and rebirth").
Steiner's key text,
which has been published under
a number of titles, predominantly
AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE
and OCCULT SCIENCE - AN OUTLINE.
"Occult" and "occultism" are, of course, frightening words. Is it unfair to apply these to the Waldorf belief system? Steiner openly acknowledged that he was an occultist, and his followers continue to use the terms "occult" and "occultism" today (although sometimes they look for less alarming synonyms). See, e.g., "Occultism".
Steiner's most important book is AN OUTLINE OF OCCULT SCIENCE. Here is a sample quote:
Steiner claimed to posses "occult" wisdom — in other words, hidden, secret spiritual wisdom. And some of this wisdom involved the role of art in human life.
Another term for "occult" wisdom
is "mystery" wisdom.
Hence the title of the following book:
ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM
[Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996]
To understand any component of Waldorf schooling, your should go to the source: Buy and study books of Rudolf Steiner's teachings. ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM lays out many of Steiner's doctrines about art. (And, incidentally, the cover shows a fairly representative example of a characteristic Waldorf art style.)
ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY
[Anthroposophic Press, 1998]
In the Waldorf universe, art is a spiritual activity. Above, we see Rudolf Steiner sculpting his monumental statue, sometimes called The Group and sometimes called The Representative of Humanity. (Actually, most of the sculpting was done by someone else.)
THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION
[Anthroposophic Press, 1964]
The "mission" of the arts, according to Steiner, is to contact or evoke the spirit realm. The first words of the Introduction to this book are "The burden of the eight lectures here translated into English is the ineluctable connection between art and the spirit world." (This cover again displays a recognizable Waldorf spiritual art style.)
This is a typical example of
as produced by a Waldorf student
Of course, not all paintings and
drawings done at Waldorf schools
are vague and otherworldly.
If a student masters
the art of watercoloring, or paints
with finer brushes on drier paper,
or works in a different medium,
recognizable objects can be depicted.
Here is a painting that
spans the divide:
Visitors are often impressed,
and parents are often proud,
that Waldorf students are led
to produce so much striking art.
Waldorf artwork courtesy of
People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools:
(Because the copies I worked
from were somewhat faded,
I have boosted the colors a bit.)
Anthroposophical drawing and painting includes other characteristic styles.
Here are a few.
From the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia:
shaded drawing - also see arts; arts-intensive Waldorf curriculum; painting
From the Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia:
form drawing — also see arts; clairvoyance; geometry
Elementary form drawing.
Die Entwicklung des Formensinns in der Erziehung
(Freies Geistesleben, 1992).]
Where form drawing leads, more or less:
[R. R., 2010.
I cheated, though, by using Spirogiro.
Waldorf students are directed to produce
similar designs by other means.]
veil painting - also see arts; shaded drawing; veils; wet-on-wet painting
In reality, not all artists feel or think this way. Indeed, only a minority do. But this is the mystical, Waldorf vision. The universe is a place of occult "mysteries," and our task is to unlock the mysteries. We can do this not through the "prosaic concepts" of scholarship or science, or indeed through the use of our "ordinary intelligence," but by entering into mystical states as through the vehicle of spiritualistic art and its attendant feelings. Art, in the Waldorf view, is essentially religious.
Playwright Jonathan Miller attended a Steiner school in the UK —
but not for long.
"In his own telling, [Miller] begins as an unremarkable schoolboy at a semimystical progressive school [a Steiner school near Abbots Langley] dedicated to something called 'leading-out,' where wet paper was insisted upon in art class. 'It had to be wet paper,' he reports, 'for dry paper gave hard lines and the art mistress explained that there were no hard lines in nature. "Moisten your papers," she would cry flutily, and the class would set about the ritual douche.' The resulting blurring was intended to express 'the confluence of the great subconscious.' Miller sums this period up thus:
"'After six months of this life I had been seduced into a womby confusion of thought and action which boded ill for my academic future. When my father discovered that my knowledge of mathematics was confined to an inaccurate version of the French multiplication tables he removed me to a conventional cap-and-blazer establishment.'"
— Colin McGinn, “Jonathan Miller and the Kinds of Genius”
THE NEW YORK REVOVIEW OF BOOKS, April 2, 2015, p. 78.
Photograph by Alicia Hamberg. Reproduced by permission of the artist.
Alicia and I are both former Waldorf students. We attended different Waldorfs schools in different decades on different continents. Today we both have a keen interest in art. Is this the result of our Waldorf years? Perhaps. Waldorf schools expose students to much beautiful art, and for this no one can fault them. But they imbue the arts with bogus occult significance, for which they can quite certainly be criticized. Both of us think the schools are dangerous and need to be exposed.
Various forms of art are often given prominence during the seasonal festivals celebrated at Waldorf schools. These festivals — which may seem lovely and harmless, at least initially — are actually disguised occult ceremonies. Here’s what a leading Anthroposophist has said, beginning with the festival of Michaelmas, which may be celebrated at Waldorf schools as a “fall festival.” (To follow the quotation, you need to know that Steiner said the Earth is alive, and it breathes; also, that Michael is an Archangel and Ahriman is a demon; and the elemental world is physical reality.)
In other words, the festivals are intended to promote our evolution to the next stage of spiritual development as foreseen by Steiner.
What is the “new understanding” of the festivals? To get a glimpse, you need to dig into Steiner’s theology. Here’s a glimpse of a glimpse. Bear in mind that Steiner’s teachings are complex and tricky, so take the following as only a introduction to the mysteries of festival celebration. Still, in a general sort of way, here’s what’s happening.  I’ll concentrate on Michaelmas. Other Waldorf festivals reflect similar occult teachings.
Michael is an Archangel, as I've said. Michael currently rules over us. You see, we are currently in the Anglo-Germanic age, which began in 1413 CE and extends till 3573 CE. A crucial task during this period is to advance human consciousness to an “objective” appreciation of all phenomena, so that spiritual truths can be apprehended “objectively” through the “consciousness soul.” (Steiner taught that not only do we have both spirits and souls, but we have various sorts of souls. The consciousness soul — which incarnates at about age 42 — is influenced by gods called Spirits of Wisdom, so it has ties to the sphere of Jupiter.)
The current historical age began under Samuel, the Archangel of Mars. His reign as Time Archangel — most of it occurring in the previous historical age — was turbulent, with Christendom splintering under the assaults of Mongols, the Renaissance, and growing nationalism. The compensation for all this was that the consciousness soul awakened, to be strengthened under succeeding Archangels.
Gabriel, Archangel of the Moon, took over in 1471 CE. Under him, natural science became dominant, humans became increasingly materialistic and skeptical, and ancient Egyptian impulses pervaded society. Socialism and democracy reared their heads. On the up side, German philosophy reached heights of wisdom during this time, although it was generally ignored. One pivotal development under Gabriel was that people learned they could disbelieve spiritual truths — a necessary step so that we could later freely choose spirituality.
Michael became Spirit of the Age in 1841 CE, and he assumed his 350-year incumbency as Time Archangel in 1879. His main task is to bring “spiritual science” (Anthroposophy) to the fore, spreading Steinerism everywhere, thus opening humanity for the “Christ impulse.” Michael’s task isn’t easy — he is opposed by the arch-demons Lucifer and Ahriman. Fortunately, Michael (Archangel of the Sun, hence Christ’s countenance) is a warrior, so the prospects for victory seem good. Ahriman will manifest in the West, just as Lucifer manifested previously in the East. Western civilization will lead to the destruction of the Earth, but that will enable properly evolved humans to pass on to their next, higher evolutionary stage.
Michaelmas is the celebration of this Archangel's annual combat with the devil.
This is the sort of thinking that lies behind many, if not all, innocent-seeming festivals at Waldorf schools. The primary festivals Steiner discusses in THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING  are Michaelmas (autumn), Christmas (midwinter), and Easter (spring). Ostensibly, these are Christian observances, but as we have seen with Michaelmas, the Anthroposophical teachings related to these observances stray far from the Bible. Some festivals at some Waldorf schools may be free of occult purpose, but others have distinct religious significance — and the religion is not Christianity, per se. It is Anthroposophy.
— Roger Rawlings
Here is advice given to Waldorf teachers by one of their own:
“Sometimes we find ourselves doing things in the kindergarten that seem very religious, and we must realize that we are doing these things for ourselves, as adults. We are reminding ourselves of the background of the festivals and their religious content....
"In preparing for a festival, study a lecture on that festival very carefully [i.e., a lecture by Steiner]. When you are carrying the festival inwardly, you do not have to do so much outwardly with the children....
“If it lives in the teacher, the festival may become more elaborate. It will not hurt the children as long as you do not explain."
— Elisabeth Moore-Haas,
“The Religion of the Young Child”,
WORKING WITH THE ANGELS:
The Young Child and the Spiritual World
(Waldorf Early Childhood Association
of North America, 2004), pp. 63-64.
Here are some items from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.
In each instance, I quote an online posting
or an Anthroposophical text, and then I offer a response.
"In the autumn, at harvest season, we celebrate Michaelmas (pronounced Mick-el-mas). Michaelmas is September 29th and celebrates the forces of the Archangel Michael (usually pronounced Myk-i-el), the time-spirit of this epoch. ... The Michaelic forces [i.e., soul forces provided by Michael] imbue us with the confidence and courage to look to the spiritual world ... Michael represents the unconquered hero, fighting against evil and the powers of darkness ... We celebrate with a play about St. George, the human counterpart of Michael, taming the dragon." — Eugene Waldorf School [http://www.eugenewaldorf.org/community/festivals/]. The school isn't playing around. It affirms Anthroposophical doctrine. [For more on the "powers of darkness," see "Evil Ones".]
"The Eugene Waldorf School [Oregon, USA] will present an outdoor medieval play at 11:15 a.m. Thursday. Grades one through eight will perform a pageant with gnomes, farmers, villagers, royalty, St. George and a dragon. The play celebrates Michaelmas, which takes place near the autumnal equinox. Bring a picnic for after the play."
• ◊ •
Waldorf schools use colorful events like this to recruit new families and to charm the parents of current students. Such festivals can be fun. But they are also significant in ways that may not be immediately apparent. Michaelmas is a religious holiday, the celebration of the archangel Michael. In Waldorf belief, Michael is the warrior-god who oversees the current stage of human evolution — as the Eugene Waldorf School says, he is the "time-spirit of this epoch." [See "Michael".] From the Waldorf perspective, a play about Michael's earthly representative slaying a dragon (the embodiment of demonic evil) is not merely a play — it is an enactment of Waldorf religious belief. If a Waldorf school presents itself as a nondenominational institution, you might ask why it celebrates Michaelmas. ("Founded in Europe in 1919, Waldorf Education now includes schools on every continent and has grown to become the world's largest independent, nondenominational school system...." http://www.eugenewaldorf.org/ourschool/philosophy/)
Things get stranger the more you inquire. According to Rudolf Steiner, beings such as gnomes ("a pageant with gnomes...") really exist. Gnomes are "nature spirits" who live underground. [See "Gnomes".] In the Waldorf belief system, there are several other kinds of nature spirits, including sylphs (who live in the air), undines (who live in water), and "salamanders" (who live in fire). I kid you not. [See "Neutered Nature".] Michael represents one of the high spiritual powers recognized in the Waldorf religion, and nature spirits represent lowly semi-spiritual powers recognized in the same belief system, called Anthroposophy. Waldorf schools exist to promote Anthroposophy. They usually go about this task quietly, indirectly, subtly. But go about it they do. [See "Here's the Answer" and "Spiritual Agenda".]
“One Alamo woman hopes to open a Waldorf school in San Ramon [Texas, USA], bringing this experiental [sic] learning style to the Tri-Valley. Dana Jain, a longtime Waldorf teacher, Luna Loca restaurant owner and resident of Alamo since 2002, is in the early planning stages of opening a Waldorf school in the location previously occupied by Mudd's restaurant. Jain has organized a Wednesday evening candle-lit 'Spiral of Light' ceremony, to help acquaint parents with Waldorf education ... The Spiral of Light activity typically occurs in a Waldorf first grade and appealed to Jain when she discovered the Waldorf method in 1974. Children will walk a short spiral of branches toward a central light. At the center, the children will light a candle, and return outward through the spiral, leaving a candle along the path making the spiral increasingly lit with each child's journey.”
• ◊ •
How can you tell what really goes on inside a Waldorf school? There are websites devoted to praising Waldorf education, and there are sites that denounce Waldorf education. Who is telling the truth?
You can try to glean clues here and there. Note, for instance, that Dana Jain wants to attract families by staging a “ceremony” that certainly seems to have religious or mystical overtones.
But can’t we find stronger evidence, for or against Waldorf schools? Certainly. Some Waldorf teachers openly acknowledge that Waldorf schools are religious [see, e.g., “Waldorf Now”], and the training Waldorf teachers receive is clearly based on Rudolf Steiner’s occultism [see “Teacher Training”]. Waldorf advocates have many reasons for withholding the truth from outsiders [see “Secrets”], but it is often possible to get to penetrate their denials and misstatements [see, e.g., “Clues"].
The Spiral of Light ceremony is actually an Advent observance, disguised slightly so as not to offend non-Christian families. (Advent is the celebration of the coming or second coming of Christ.) All the festivals at Waldorf schools are, at root, religious. "At the request of non-Christian families, some schools have given their Festival celebrations and pageants more generic names, so that Michaelmas becomes the Fall Festival and the Advent Garden is called the Spiral of Light. In situations where it is not possible to soften or eliminate the 'Christian message,' e.g. a performance of the Shepherds’ Play, parents may keep children home on the day of its performance ... On both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels we ignore the world of nature at our peril. The Christian Festivals and their renewal and expansion as described by Steiner, provide a vital and comforting space in which children and adults alike can renew and expand their relationship with the earth and its relationship with the sun, moon, and stars." — Waldorf teacher Eugene Schwartz, http://knol.google.com/k/anthroposophy-and-waldorf-education-do-the-festivals-have-a-future#.
“A horde of fourth grade berserkers rise from the darkness of the hall to stamp onto the stage ... [The child who plays the Norse god] Thor, though one of the smallest in the class, has an enormous voice to match the famous Thor’s Hammer ... The bit where Thor...knocks the taunting warriors off their benches in well choreographed waves of destruction, is particularly impressive ... [E]ach festival is embedded in a cycle of festivals which...express the inner mood of the spiritual calendar ... [F]estivals are also linked to the intuitive realm of the future. In an age in which traditional forms of ritual and community are fading, the Steiner Waldorf Schools strive to cultivate a new, free consciousness of time, human development and community.”
— Christopher Clouder and Martyn Rawson, WALDORF EDUCATION - Rudolf Steiner’s Ideas in Practice (Floris Books, 1998), pp. 10-16.
• ◊ •
The festivals at Waldorf schools are meant to be attractive and festive. Often they are used as PR devices, charming parents and attracting new families to the fold. (Violence is sometimes depicted — the myths celebrated in Waldorf schools are often very violent — but only in "choreographed" form.)
The festivals are, at root, religious observances. On p. 39 of their book, Clouder and Rawson include a photo of a Whitsun festival at a Waldorf school (Whitsunday, or Pentecost, celebrates the descent from Heaven of the Holy Spirit). Many Waldorf festivals have an apparently Christian character, but the roots of the festivals run back to pagan beliefs — as is suggested by the enactment of Thor’s adventures.
"A Whitsun festival in the kindergarten"
The “cycle” observed is that of the seasons as understood by the ancients. The “inner mood of the spiritual calendar” embodies the occult or hidden significance of the cycle. The “intuitive realm of the future” is a reference to clairvoyance and to the future states of humanity Rudolf Steiner has described using his claimed clairvoyant powers — a future in which intuition or clairvoyance will be widespread, Anthroposophists believe.
The “new, free consciousness” that Waldorf schools attempt to cultivate is the imaginative, intuitive, clairvoyant consciousness needed to follow Steiner into the new age. The “human development” mentioned is the spiritual evolution of humanity that is the core aim of Anthroposophy. Waldorf schools are wedded to the aims of Anthroposophy.
As always at Waldorf schools, there is more (and less) going on than meets the eye. Note that the goals of Waldorf schools have little to do with education as it is usually understood — that is, the development of the brain and the acquisition of real knowledge about the real world. Instead, almost everything done at Waldorf schools is guided by Rudolf Steiner’s occult teachings.
“This notion, that imagination is the heart of learning, animates the entire arc of Waldorf teaching.”
— Todd Oppenheimer, “Schooling the Imagination”, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, September, 1999.
• ◊ •
Waldorf schools emphasize imagination. They display “imaginative” art and they encourage “imaginative” play. What they don’t usually spell out is the reason for this emphasis. In the Waldorf belief system, imagination is the first stage on the path toward clairvoyance. The stages are imagination, inspiration, and intuition, leading to clairvoyance and, eventually, “exact” clairvoyance.* Rudolf Steiner claimed to use exact clairvoyance. (Hence, very few of his teachings can be disputed, since he knew the exact Truth.) The forms of imagination, etc., attainable now by Waldorf students pale in comparison to the perfected forms that can be attained by initiates and that all humanity will attain in the future, according to Steiner.
These stages are spiritual — they are not seated in the brain but in invisible spiritual “organs.” The brain is held in low esteem at Waldorf schools. The use of the brain — in particular, disciplined, rational use of the brain, that is, intellect — is faulty, Steiner taught. At most, the brain can tell us about the physical plane of existence — the lowest and least important plane. For higher cognition, we have to turn to clairvoyance and its precursors. In stressing imagination, inspiration, and so forth, Waldorf teachers attempt to deflect students from rationality, thereby opening the portals to the worlds beyond our own.
Believe it or not, what I have described just now is one of the central (but generally concealed) pillars of Waldorf belief. We have this on the highest authority. Consider the following:
Steiner was emphatic:
And he laid out the succeeding stages. Concerning the second stage, he said:
We could trace this farther, but since Steiner wanted you to search out (and, presumably, buy) his books, perhaps we shouldn’t. So round up his books and settle down for a good read. Particularly interesting are the books in the series Foundations of Waldorf Education. Waldorf teachers study these books intently. Before sending a child to a Waldorf school, perhaps you should, too.
* These terms merge and mingle, and various Anthroposophical accounts conflict with one another to various degrees. Imagination, inspiration, and intuition may be considered precursors to clairvoyance, or they may be deemed actual forms of clairvoyance. Under the latter interpretation, intuition is often deemed to be full-blown clairvoyance, which when perfected becomes exact clairvoyance. Steiner said that clairvoyance is exact when it is disciplined and precise, as he claimed his was. If the goal of mental and spiritual training is to attain exact clairvoyance, then disciplined imagination, inspiration, and intuition can be considered stages of exact clairvoyance — which is how Steiner describes them in statements we will consider here.
Things get muddier when we consider the sorts of "imagination," etc., stressed by Waldorf schools for the students. The kids are not usually taught the techniques of exact clairvoyance or, indeed, any form of clairvoyance, defined literally. But they are shepherded onto a path that is supposed to lead to clairvoyance. Note that the Steiner statements we consider here come from a book about education.
Here are descriptions of Waldorf
teacher-training courses offered by
the Center for Anthroposophy
(Wilton, New Hampshire),
These are courses that people take
in order to become or progress as
“Esoteric Science - This course examines the esoteric history of the human being ... Students should leave the course with a basic understanding of the spiritual scientific approach to the evolution of human consciousness. In addition, we will examine tools to spiritual self-development as outlined by Rudolf Steiner ... The evolution of the earth and solar system in relationship to spiritual beings (Old Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth; stages of Earth evolution through Atlantis)....” [http://www.centerforanthroposophy.org/programs/high-school-teacher-education/courses/second-year/foundation-courses/esoteric-science-hs-216/]
“Arts/Art History - ... Art becomes the mediator between the physical, etheric, astral bodies, and incoming ego ... Art classes have the subtle task of touching the high school student’s sacred dreams. They can help set in motion impulses that stir the unfolding of individual destiny....” [http://www.centerforanthroposophy.org/programs/high-school-teacher-education/courses/third-year/subject-seminars/artsart-history-hs-328/]
“Music in the Light of Anthroposophy - ...This course addresses all those who want to deepen their understanding of music as an empowering soul-spiritual source ... [W]e will explore the different elements of music, discovering how melody, harmony, and rhythm are musical expressions of our threefold nature ... We will explore the intervals — in nature, in movement, and through artistic activity — and learn how they are connected to our own evolutionary path: specifically, how this process of incarnation corresponds to the developmental stages of the child....”
• ◊ •
The Waldorf belief system is built on the "esoteric" or "occult" wisdom produced through clairvoyance, chiefly through the clairvoyance of Rudolf Steiner.
Here is a description of a course
to be offered this summer at
the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute,
a Waldorf teacher-training institution.
“All full-time summer students
should register for this course: EDU 643”
EDU 643 Artistic Work in the Waldorf School III – 2 cr.
Classes will consist of demonstrations and hands-on artistic work, including lessons in plant dying, pencil drawing and clay modeling, in relationship to the Waldorf Human and Animal, Botany, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Embryology, and Human Fertility main lesson blocks.
• ◊ •
Waldorf schools are often quite attractive, filled with pleasing art. Some families pick Waldorf schools largely for this reason alone — the places just look so beautiful. (Waldorf teachers are almost always trained to create their own works of art, such as colorful chalk drawings on classroom blackboards. Note that all of the regular students in the Great Lakes program are advised to take the hands-on arts class, the third in a series.)
You should realize, however, that the purpose of all this art is religious, and the religion involved is Anthroposophy. As Rudolf Steiner told Waldorf teachers, "We must, in our lessons, see to it that the children experience the beautiful, artistic, and aesthetic conception of the world; and their ideas and mental pictures should be permeated by a religious/moral feeling. Such feelings, when they are cultivated throughout the elementary school years, will make all the difference during [later] years." — Rudolf Steiner, EDUCATION FOR ADOLESCENTS - Foundations of Waldorf Education X (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), pp. 77-78.
Steiner taught that art has occult spiritual effects. Spiritual beings descend to Earth through such vehicles as bright colors and musical tones, and our souls can ascend into the spirit realm through the same vehicles. “This is what gives art its essential lustre: it transplants us here and now into the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, quoted in THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 25.
Steiner meant this quite literally; he was not speaking figuratively. He said that art creates direct links between the gods of the higher worlds and the human souls residing here below. He claimed that a unique Waldorf form of dance, eurythmy, has particularly strong spiritual effects. "Eurythmy shapes and moves the human organism in a way that furnishes direct external proof of our participation in the supersensible [i.e., invisible, spiritual] world. In having people do eurythmy, we link them directly to the supersensible world.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.
Waldorf schools usually "have" all students "do eurythmy" — it is usually required. "Eurythmy is obligatory. The children must participate. Those who do not participate in eurythmy will be removed from the school." — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 65.
Perhaps you love art, and perhaps you want your child to receive a religious education. That's fine. But before sending your child to a Waldorf school, make sure that your religious views are compatible with Anthroposophy. Consider, for instance, the following instruction that Steiner gave to Waldorf teachers: "When you know something of initiation,* and are able to consciously observe what lays hold of the child’s body, it really is terrible to see how the child must find a way into all the complications of bones and ligaments that have to be formed.** It really is a tragic sight. The child knows nothing of this, for the Guardian of the Threshold*** protects the child from any such knowledge. But teachers should be aware of it and look on with the deepest reverence ... [Y]ou should ﬁll your hearts with this knowledge, and from this starting point undertake your work as educators." — Rudolf Steiner, THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD - Foundations of Waldorf Education XXI (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), pp. 11-12.
If you don't believe in the things Anthroposophists believe in — such as the Guardian of the Threshold — you will not approve of the "starting point" of Waldorf education. Indeed, you may ultimately realize that you don't approve of very much at all that is basic to Waldorf education.
* Occult initiation. [See "Inside Scoop".] Senior Waldorf teachers generally consider themselves to be occult initiates — that is, they believe that they possess secret spiritual wisdom that is hidden from the uninitiated, such as you and me. Are you comfortable with this?
** In Anthroposophical belief, entry to the spirit realm is blocked by a pair of spectral guardians. [See "Guardians".] We must satisfy their demands before being permitted access to the lands of the gods. Do you share this belief?
*** This is the process of earthly incarnation. [See "Incarnation".] In Anthroposophical belief, children are reincarnating beings who need help to properly develop their four bodies — the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies — here on Earth during their newest incarnations. Waldorf teachers think that providing such help is one of their highest tasks — much higher than teaching the children ordinary academic subjects. Are you comfortable with this? Do you share these beliefs? [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf" and "Here's the Answer".]
Currently featured at SteinerBooks
as an "educational resource"
for Waldorf teachers:
FIVE PLAYS FOR WALDORF FESTIVALS
(Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, 2004)
"Richard Moore's collection of seasonal plays are [sic] suitable for classes 1 to 5 and feature original songs. They include two Christmas plays, an Easter play, a St John's festival play, and a Michaelmas play...."
• ◊ •
Note that the "Waldorf festivals" are actually religious celebrations and the "seasonal plays" are actually religious pageants, centered on Christmas, Easter, the feast of St. John, and Michaelmas. (If you have any doubts about the religious nature of the publication in question, study the cover art.) This is appropriate because, although they generally deny it, Waldorf schools are in fact religious institutions. [See, e.g., "Schools as Churches".] The chief question that may come to most readers' minds is what sort of Christianity is observed in Waldorf schools, considering that they place such emphasis on Christian festivals. The answer is: no form of Christianity that you will find in any mainstream Christian denomination.
According to Anthroposophical doctrine, Christ is not the Son of God, in the usual sense. Instead, Christ is the Sun God, the god who has been recognized in other religions by such names as Hu, Balder, or Ahura Mazda. Unlike real Christianity, Anthroposophy is polytheistic, recognizing a vast horde of gods. Among these is Christ, and Rudolf Steiner said that Christ (the Sun God) is very important to human evolution, but Christ is only one of the many, many gods. Moreover, according to Steiner, the Biblical account of the life of Christ Jesus is badly flawed. To know what really happened to Jesus, we need to turn from the four gospels of the New Testament and consult instead "the fifth gospel" — which, it so happens, was written by Rudolf Steiner himself, relying on his marvelous powers of clairvoyance.
In reading Steiner's account, you will learn, for instance, that there were actually two Jesus children. One Jesus came from the line of Solomon, the other came from the line of Nathan. The former was actually the reincarnation of Zarathustra, while the latter was infused with the spirit of Buddha. The two Jesuses melded, and thus they became the host who was able to receive the incarnating Sun God, Christ, who inhabited the body of "Solomonic-Nathanic" Jesus for three years. [For more on such matters, see, e.g., "Was He Christian?", "Gnosis", "Rosy Cross", "Polytheism", and "Sun God".]
This is the sort "Christianity" that Rudolf Steiner's followers embrace and that they subtly offer to Waldorf students through "seasonal plays" during the "Waldorf festivals."
To examine the Waldorf view of Christmas,
please use this link: "Christmas".
To generalize, we can say that Waldorf or Anthroposophical art tends to be done in watercolors, with vague, soft, merging forms that suggest pleasant spiritual states or beings. This is not always the case, however. Anthroposophists may use any medium or style in which to convey their spiritualistic beliefs. Here are simulations of Anthroposophical art in which we find bold, straight lines as well as explicit spiritual imagery (although, to be sure, typical swirling patterns are also present). Any work of art that expresses Rudolf Steiner's doctrines is, ultimately, acceptable to Anthroposophists and may be found in Waldorf schools.
Copy of a detail from a mural
painted by Walther Roggenkamp
on the wall of a Waldorf school —
see John Fletcher's ART INSPIRED
BY RUDOLF STEINER
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987),
[R.R. copy, 2009.
The original is, of course,
better than my copy.]
Copy of details from
a drawing by Assia Turgenieff,
illustrating a passage in one of
Rudolf Steiner's mystery plays —
see ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER,
Anthroposophical art is usually,
but not always, upbeat.
We saw the angel previously; but
demonic forms are also often represented
in art created by and for Anthroposophists.
[R.R. copy, 2009.
See the entry for "shaded drawing" in
For a broader survey of Anthroposophical Art,
see "Anthro Art".
Here is a reasonably representative
shot of eurythmy in performance,
albeit blurred so as to suggest more
vigorous movement than is
usual in eurythmy:
[Charlotte Fischer, cover photo for EURYTHMY
(Sophia Books, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2006).]
For additional flattering images of eurythmy,
click here: Google/eurythmy
For more Steiner statements about eurythmy,
[Rudolf Steiner School, New York City, 2011.]
Although they claim to respect the individuality of their students, Waldorf schools often require conformity and strict obedience. Note the art on the wall: All of the children have created the same or similar images, copying work presented or created by their teachers.
[Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm, 2011.]
[Halton Waldorf School, Ontario, Canada, 2011.]
[A California Waldorf-inspired school, photo by Larry Dalton, 2005.]
[The Waldorf Academy, Toronto, Canada, 2010.]
This is a sketch of the Eurythmeum, a training center for students of eurythmy, designed by Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophical structures, including various Waldorf schools, often exhibit odd angles, planes, and curves meant to detach us from our normal perspective and invoke the spirit realm. [R. R. sketch, 2010, based on photo on p. 207 of Rudolf Steiner, ARCHITECTURE: An Introductory Reader (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2003).]
Some images I use at this website
are not specifically Anthroposophical —
instead, they suggest elements of
Waldorf thinking that can be traced to
ideas, beliefs, or practices more widespread
than Steiner's specific doctrines.
“[T]his soul-communion constituted the poetic mood. Through it man saw how thoughts not yet separated from objects gain pictorial expression in his vault-like head, a head resembling the firmament; how thought represents a spiritual firmament, a celestial vault; how thought is inherent throughout the cosmos. Individual thoughts were expressed through the relative positions of the stars, by the way the planets moved past each other.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION
(Anthroposophic Press, 1984),
lecture 5, GA 276.
[R.R. sketch, 2010.]
An occult color wheel, based on Steiner's teachings, which say that colors are vehicles for spirits to enter our world, and they reflect conditions in higher worlds. Moreover, specific colors have specific effects on us, associated with the occult or astrological effects of the planets and stars.
“[B]lack, white, green and peach blossom have a quiescent effect ... In the three colors of red, yellow and blue there is an inner movement, a planetary quality. Something of the nature of the fixed stars is present in black, white, peach-blossom and green; something of the planets lives in yellow, red and blue.”
— Rudolf Steiner, quoted in
John Flecther’s ART INSPIRED
BY RUDOLF STEINER
(Mercury Arts Publications, 1987),
[R.R, sketch, 2010,
based on one by Fletcher
on p. 134.]
“Epic poetry turns to the upper gods, drama to the lower gods. True drama shows the divine world lying below the earth, the chthonic world, rising up onto the earth ... In contrast, epic poetry sees the spiritual world sink down ... [T]he dramatic element rises like a volcano, and the epic element sinks down from above ... [I]t is right here on the same plane with ourselves that the cosmic element is enticed and made gay, joyous, full of laughter, through nymphs and fire spirits; right here the upper gods cooperate with the lowest; right here in the middle region that man becomes lyrical.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION
(Anthroposophic Press, 1964),
[R.R. sketch, 2010,
based on the illustration on p. 41,
using colors specified by Steiner.
Epic poetry is shown purple,
lyric poetry green,
and drama red.]
“We see countless elemental beings in spring just around Easter time ... [W]e see them come together in a general cloud (red) and form a common mass within the Earth soul (green). But in doing so these elemental beings lose their consciousness to a certain degree and enter into a sort of sleeping condition.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR
AS THE BREATHING-PROCESS
OF THE EARTH
(Anthroposophic Press, 1984),
“[W]hen the human being returns once more with the forces which he has taken up into his own soul through through the Earth’s out-breathing...he plunges into an Earth which has been ahrimanized ... There comes to the aid of the descending human soul the force of Michael, who, while the Earth’s breath is flowing back into the Earth itself, contends with the Dragon, Ahriman.”
— Rudolf Steiner,
THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR
AS THE BREATHING-PROCESS
OF THE EARTH
(Anthroposophic Press, 1984),
[R.R, sketches, 2010, faithfully based on
the ones in the book. Steiner's versions
are no more informative than mine.]
The Waldorf approach to "Christian" festivals is actually pagan, honoring spiritual beings — gods — not recognized in Christianity.
Some of the associated Anthroposophical teachings may seem attractive, but do they make sense? And are they compatible with your beliefs?
• "In the summer this Earth Spirit turns in love and sympathy to the cosmos. And what we then see as flowers, as the lush green in field and forest and as teeming animal life, are the visible signs of the Earth Spirit flowing out to the sun, to the stars and to the cosmos in sympathy. And in the winter the earth spirit [sic] withdraws into itself and shuts itself up against the cosmos, in antipathy."
— Waldorf teacher Charles Kovacs,
THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND
TO CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS
(Floris Books, 2007), p. 21.
• "The festivals we call Christmas, Easter, St. John's day, Michaelmas, were celebrated thousands of years before Christianity under other names ... [A]t the core of these festivals was a sense of communion, of communication with the Earth Spirit."
— Ibid., p. 22.
If you want to dig a little deeper into the occult significance of the arts as conceived in Waldorf schools, you might read "The Inner Nature of Music, and the Experience of Tone: The Occult Basis of Music", a lecture by Steiner. [See THE GOLDEN BLADE, 1956; GA 283.]
"Why does music speak so intimately to the heart, and so widely, and why is its influence so powerful, even in early childhood? ... Human beings are so made that it is possible for them to release in themselves faculties which are normally asleep ... When a man develops these slumbering faculties through concentration, meditation and so on, he advances step by step ... Increasingly his dream-experiences gain in clarity ... [H]e experiences a world which is much more real than the physical one ... The beings of Devachan [the spirit realm] interpenetrate us, and we are within everything that exists there. In occult schools, accordingly, this devachanic-astral realm is called the world of interpenetrability. Man is played through by its music ... [W]hen someone lives in the experience of music, he is living in the image of his spiritual home. It naturally elevates the soul to feel this intimate relationship to its primal ground, and that is why the simplest souls are so receptive to music. A man then feels himself truly at home, and whenever he is lifted up through music he says to himself: ‘Yes, you come from other worlds, and in music you can experience your native place.’” — Rudolf Steiner, "The Inner Nature of Music, and the Experience of Tone: The Occult Basis of Music".
As the subtitle of this lecture indicates, the study of music in a Waldorf school has an occult purpose. You may like this purpose, you may not. But you should see it for what it is.
Steiner's statements on these matters are not always clear or cogent, but they extend to all forms of art.
"With aesthetic experience, what comes into consideration is what lives in the head and in the rest of the organism, for aesthetic experience arises either when the head dreams about what is going on in the rest of the organism, or when the rest of the organism dreams about what is going on in the head. These are interactions that involve more than can be contained in our normal life of ideas. The roots of these experiences reach beneath the conscious levels and they depend on the inward, more unconscious way our body and head interact when we enjoy something beautiful. The same elements that we are otherwise aware of in dreams surge back and forth, back and forth. This is the primary thing with aesthetic enjoyment: either the head is dreaming about the contents of the rest of the body, or the rest of the body is dreaming about the contents of the head. And then, afterwards, we bring this back from our inner world into waking consciousness. The waking consciousness comes second. The occult basis of all aesthetic and artistic enjoyment is this surging and weaving back and forth between the head and the rest of the organism. In the case of lesser aesthetic pleasures, the head is dreaming of the body; with the higher and highest aesthetic pleasures, the body is dreaming about the head." — Rudolf Steiner, THE RIDDLE OF HUMANITY (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1990), lecture 4, GA 170.
Note the repeated phrase: "The occult basis..." It occurs in the subtitle of one lecture, and in the body of the second — attributing an occult basis to all artistic enjoyment. All Waldorf-style arts aim to build on this occult foundation.
A pastel drawing by Rudolf Steiner
depicting man's threefold nature:
physical body, spirit, soul.
[See the cover of
WHAT IS ANTHROPOSOPHY?
(Anthroposophic Press, 2002).]
Here is an excerpt from
Sharon Lombard's essay
"Spotlight on Anthroposophy"
Like many occultists before and since, Steiner also devised a magic system; he dubbed his Eurythmy. Eurythmy was passed off in Waldorf as "a form of dance" and that's what we believed it to be. When my daughter was sick, the faculty took an interest and suggested that my daughter do eurythmy exercises which could help her. We agreed and the next thing we knew our daughter came home absolutely furious, begging us to tell the Eurythmist to stop humiliating her. According to our child, the Eurythmist took her out of class, into a room, and told her not to be afraid because she had helped many people. Then she draped my daughter in silk and "spoke as if she was praying." We wrote a letter asking the Eurythmist to stop the exercises. Later, I learned from another ex-Waldorfer that her child had taken "Therapeutic Eurythmy" because she was being bullied by another child. This mother had received Eurythmy reports from the Eurythmist and sent me copies. At first I could not comprehend them. It was only after delving into Rosicrucianism, Cabalism, and other magic that they began to make any sense. From Golden Dawn Initiation books I learned that the Hebrew Beth or B means "house, value 2. Beth is the symbol of all habitations and receptacles, of anything that contains. It is virile and paternal; a glyph of active and interior action" (Cicero, 1998, p. 74). In The Universal Human I stumbled across a quote from Steiner saying “when the Hebrews wrote, for example, what corresponds to our B, they always felt something like a picture of outer conditions, something that formed a warm hutlike enclosure. The letter B always evoked the image of something that can enclose a being like a house" (1990, p. 53). Inch by inch I became more familiar with the concepts of magic, so that when I read the reports again, I recognized the meaning of this:
The final exercise in the session was a story about a Big Brown Bear. The sound and movement she practiced was of course the B. Often it is the case with individuals who have a perfectionist nature that they are quite sensitive to what is around them. The B exercise helps to build a protective sheath around a person which both sustains what is within and protects from what is without. Putting the sound on a spiral further enhances this protective quality (Virginia Efta's Therapeutic Eurythmy Report, January - February 1999).
The Eurythmy reports were a total of six pages and document use of other ritual magic practices like tracing a five-pointed pentagram, use of "copper rods" i.e., magic wands that supposedly channel forces, and vibration of vowels which are thought to connect patients to spiritual beings that work inside of them. In Anthroposophy, speech sounds as well as music reflect the Word and, consequently, "are in a formative relationship to the organs of the physical body. In cases of specific illnesses, therefore, the organ affected can be reached by the reiterated practice of specific speech sounds and rhythms" (Raffe, Hardwood, & Lundgren, 1974, p. 26). This is why the child was made to practice the B in the form of "Big Brown Bear." Because some people believe that God created the world by speaking it into existence, words and letters are believed to be very powerful magic. This accounts for the warning, "But such exercises, like medicines, should be first prescribed by a physician [Anthroposophical doctor] before they are carried out by a curative eurythmist" (Raffe et al, 1974, p. 26). Both the eurythmist and the Anthroposophical doctor must be highly trained in Steiner's magical arts before operating their magic.
Brian Vickers points out in the book Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance that the occult tradition does not recognize the distinction between words and things or between literal and metaphorical language, as clearly distinguished in the contemporary scientific tradition.
Words are treated as if they are equivalent to things and can be substituted for them. Manipulate the one and you can manipulate the other. Analogies, instead of being, as they are in the scientific tradition, explanatory devices subordinate to argument and proof, or heuristic tools to make models that can be tested, corrected, and abandoned if necessary, are, instead, modes of conceiving relationships in the universe that reify, rigidify, and ultimately come to dominate thought. One no longer uses analogies: One is used by them. They become the only way in which one can think or experience the world (Vickers, 1984, p. 95).
Steiner's cosmic dance would connect the pupil to the spiritual world because it was a channel through which the spirit would reveal itself to human consciousness, "a path of experience to the zodiacal signs" (Powell & Worberg, 2002, p. 32). And as Steiner claimed, "In causing people to do Eurythmy we link them directly with the supersensible world" (Steiner, 1970, p. 71). This modern form of temple dance is based on Steiner's concept of cosmic principles that he claimed underlie the power of speech and music. By mirroring the heavenly world upon earth, Eurythmy supposedly reveals the mysteries of the stars. "A central goal of this practice is to find a living relationship to the starry heavens, especially to the spiritual realm of the signs or constellations of the zodiac" (Powell & Worberg, 2002, p. 32). "It is a path through which man may again find a way to that self-knowledge which is also a knowledge of the universe" (Raffe et al., 1974, p. 27). Eurythmy will bring the powers of the soul into the proper relationship with the human body and will strengthen the earthly and cosmic forces, enabling man to realize his "I." Like the ancient Cabalists and Renaissance magicians of the past, "'Steiner regarded the human body as the creation of the cosmic Word. Man is a microcosm spoken from the macrocosm" (Raffe et al., 1974, p. 26). “For words are form,” asserts Anthroposophist Marjorie Spock, “All things were made by him (the Word that was God). As we contemplate the world of nature which that Word made, we find in it four elements: solids, liquids, gases, warmth — elements rediscovered in the small microcosmic words human voices utter” (Spock, 1980, pp. 36-37). With correspondences to the Zodiac, with words and letters of power, lines of force, numerology, symbols, sigils, breath work, gestures, tones, colors, and copper wands, Steiner promised to connect man to the macrocosm via Eurythmy, enabling him to experience it in a cosmic way.
It is the arms which essentially lead man into this freedom, and which are the supreme instruments to reveal the life of the soul. From the horizontal, which they alone can properly express, they can reach upward into the sphere of lightness, and downward into the sphere of weight. Thus they relate man to the universe. (Raffe et al., 1974, p. 13).
And as Steiner points out, "The limbs are the part of the human body which more than any other part passes over into the life of the next incarnation. They are the part which points to the future, to what comes after death" (Steiner, 1970, p. 70). In her book entitled Eurythmy, Marjorie Spock noted the twelve basic consonants and their correspondences to the zodiac as follows: "Leo, T or D; Cancer, F; Gemini, H; Taurus, R; Aries, V; Pisces, N; Aquarius, M; Capricorn, L; Sagitarius, G; Scorpio, S; Libra, K; Virgo, B or P" (Spock, 1980, p. 78).
Waldorfish art, more or less
[R. R., 2010].
Musician Robert Smith-Hald
was raised in isolated
Here is an excerpt from his
It is both amusing and sad,
giving an offbeat glimpse
inside the world of Anthroposophy.
I am Robert Smith-Hald, born in West Chester County Pennsylvania, into a secluded, nearly self-sufficient religious community called Camphill. It is a world-wide organisation, based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. There are now several Camphill places in the states. Back then there was Beaver Run, where I was born, and Copake Village in upstate New York. Both started in the early sixties. As a family, we moved between the two.
...The glue of these types of communities is to lay down lots of taboos. The outside world is bad, henceforth: No TV, no candy, no junk food, no blue jeans, use candles rather than electric lights — and stay way from anything remotely connected to modern culture — and the worst: NO POP MUSIC, which includes rock, folk, blues, even most country music. The only music allowed was classical.
This is my first experience of pop music. It is as follows.
It was high summer. We were three friends, 5 or 6 years old and on a “treasure hunt” in the periphery of the 400-acre estate on which Camphill Beaver Run rests. It was surrounded by thick forest, and what we would do is dare each other to go deeper, seeing who had the biggest balls. This year we got all the way to the other side, to the outside world. And there we found something fascinating, we found a small garbage dump! This was great fun for little boys ... [B]ut the most precious item we found that day was a white and red plastic wind-up gramophone record player with a fist-load of multicolored plastic singles. It was a toy really, but to us it was a genuine hi-fi marvel. We took it back home through the forest ... It took a while, and quite some elbow grease until we got it cranked up and running, and put the first candy-red see-through single on. But it was worth it. Out of the little crackly speaker came Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock”. This was the first time any of us had heard music like this and we were gripped by an uncontrollable excitement. We laughed and shouted.
...We were of course not alone, and our antics were soon discovered by our ill-tempered nanny ... She emerged from one of the houses sweating great beads of Nanny Juice, huffing and puffing and screaming hell and high water. (But of course not swearing, that would be forbidden too) ... There had been some masonry work being done earlier that week, and the tools were still there, among them a heavy-duty sledgehammer. She grabbed this in stride.
...We formed a protective wall around the gramophone, nearly peeing ourselves with fear, praying she would stop. But she didn’t. She raised the sledgehammer high and it came crashing down, flicking my ear as it went whizzing by, grazing a shoulder here and there, and then totally annihilating the gramophone in a sickening crackling thud of jarring plastic compound, raining red and white plastic bits all over our little quivering heads ... [S]he pried open the storm cellar drain with a crowbar and stuffed the remains down the drain. She put back the grid, picked up a pick–axe, and threatened us with sudden and certain death if we ever mentioned this episode to anyone. We were scared to death, and of course we didn’t breathe a word.
The following article is a bit superficial
and it generalizes a bit too much
(not all walls at all Waldorf schools
are painted as the writer describes),
but it is informative nonetheless.
A Colorful Education at Waldorf
By Paris Achen
MAIL TRIBUNE, August 23, 2010
In Waldorf education, the color of the rainbow is a metaphor for the development of a child's mind, and the colors of Waldorf classroom walls follow that progression.
Each color of the rainbow affects a child's physiology and psychology, according to Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner, who developed the Waldorf concept in 1919.
That's why Steiner prescribed certain colors for certain grade levels, a color scheme Waldorf schools, such as Central Point's Madrone Trail Public Charter School, have been following for nearly a century.
Color is not the only feature that sets Waldorf classroom walls apart from other schools.
The walls are painted with a technique called "lazure," derived from the German word "lasur," which means glaze.
"They use a figure-8 motion with a watercolor pigment," said Allison Casenhiser, a third-grade teacher at Madrone Trail.
The color starts dark at the bottom of the wall and gets lighter at the top, giving the illusion of light and fluidity. Combined with the color, it has a powerful effect on physiology that one can feel upon entering one of the classrooms.
Each grade's classroom walls follow the colors of the rainbow, starting at the top of the rainbow in grade kindergarten with a rose hue. Waldorf education focuses on nature and allowing children to develop at their natural pace.
"Nothing is random," said Christine Crawley, a teacher at the Siskiyou School, a private Waldorf school in Ashland. "Things are done in Waldorf education because of certain observations (in nature and in child development), and it's like, 'Wow, that really matches the child at this age.' " In kindergarten, the color mimics the comfort of the womb, which is important to younger children, said Crawley.
That theme continues in the first grade with a lighter pink and in the second grade with a peach, where students' attitudes tend to be "peachy" and carefree, she said.
In the third grade, the walls turn golden.
The yellow color represents "the birth of the individual," Crawley said.
"They come into their own," she said. "They have the feeling of separation of others." In the fourth grade, the walls take on a yellow-green hue, signifying the students beginning to become more grounded on the earth, she said. In kind, Waldorf students in the fourth grade begin studying geography and local history, she said.
The sciences begin to emerge in the fifth grade, bringing a blue tinge to the green. Fifth-graders study things such as botany and Greek mythology.
"Blue is a mind color," Crawley said. "It's the color of the celestial realm." Hence, in sixth grade, where more higher thinking takes place, blue dominates the walls.
"They are going more in the sciences, physics, astrology and study of the Middle Ages," she said.
The color continues to darken as students enter the seventh and eighth grade until in the eighth grade, their walls are purple.
"It's the merging of the red and the blue," Crawley said. "They've come full circle."
For more on Waldorf beliefs concerning
the spiritual power and meaning of colors,
see "Mystical Colors".
More Waldorf student art:
Here's another item from the Waldorf Watch "news" page.
(My response repeats some points made previously.
Feel free to skip ahead as need be.)
From the San Francisco [USA] Classical Voice:
Where's Waldorf: Music at the Heart of Education Philosophy
By way of background, the first Waldorf School opened in 1919 in Stuttgart Germany, the creation of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher strongly influenced by, among others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The education is “alternative,” holistic, and despite a common misconception, not religious. The San Francisco Waldorf School started in 1979; the high school opened in 1997. Its overall philosophy, which increasingly has been picked up by other schools, is “Head, Heart, Hands.” The music curriculum, which is in the very nature of holistic education, is practice-based but includes a good deal of music theory. Each high school student is required to take four years of music. Students who don’t have a music background sing in the choir or play the guitar in beginner classes. There are also an orchestra, a jazz band, a choir, and various ensembles, including a drum ensemble.
“Our primary goal,” says [Waldorf teacher] David Weber, “is not to turn out musicians but to influence a student’s approach to life and their ability to make sound judgments through the artistic effects of music. We think that the study of music makes students much more well-rounded.”
• ◊ •
All forms of art are important in Waldorf education. Rudolf Steiner, the "philosopher" who created Waldorf schooling, taught that spiritual beings are transported to the physical realm through musical tones and beautiful colors. And, Steiner, said, humans can be transported to the spirit realm in much the same way.
As for music: It is steeped in mystical power, according to Steiner. A Waldorf music class, like a painting class, is actually a cultic ritual — or so Steiner intended.
Steiner explained that composers get their musical ideas while asleep, during which time the higher parts of their beings leave their physical bodies and travel into the spirit world. “When a man falls asleep, his astral body* goes out from his physical body, his soul then lives in the devachanic world.** Its harmonies make an impression on his soul ... The composer...takes his model from the spiritual world. He has in himself harmonies which he translates into physical terms. That is the secret connection between the music which resounds in the physical world and the hearing of spiritual music during the night....”*** — Rudolf Steiner, quoted in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, John Fletcher (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 136. In essence, Steiner says that composers go to the spirit realm, hear melodies there, and then translate these melodies to forms we can hear with our physical ears. Music is thus inherently spiritual.
In Waldorf belief, people who play or listen to music are being lured toward occult spiritual experiences. “[O]n listening to music, [a person] has an inkling...of the spiritual world.” — ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, p. 136. Children in a Waldorf music class are actually being ushered toward esoteric mysteries. Steiner taught that musical tones operate much like colors, providing access to the spirit realm. Bear in mind that Steiner wasn’t speaking metaphorically — he meant this quite literally. A child listening to or making music is moved to the occult world of spirits. “The world of sound will deepen and enliven the life of the soul in a very similar way ... We shall experience the tone [i.e., a musical note] as an opening made by the gods from the spiritual world, and we shall climb through the tone into the spiritual world.” — Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), p. 162.
All of this, by the way, has a bearing on whether or not Waldorf schools are religious. Steiner acknowledged that, in fact, in their own special way, they are. "You can feel from the whole mood and being of the Waldorf school that a Christian quality**** pervades all the teaching and how religion is alive there." — Rudolf Steiner, THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF EDUCATION - Foundations of Waldorf Education XV (Anthroposophic Press, 2004), p. 115.
Music may be, in some sense, the most potent of all the arts, having unique powers to sway and elevate human beings. When mystics speak of the music of the spheres, for instance, they suggest that music has special spiritual effects; music is woven into the very essence of the universe. As Steiner said, “[E]verything lives in music ... [T]he sun and the spheres speak in music." — Rudolf Steiner, FOUNDING A SCIENCE OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), p. 15.
But Is music actually at the "heart" of Waldorf education? Actually, no. Waldorf schools do not generally treat music as more important than the other arts. Many forms of art are emphasized in Waldorf schools, certainly including painting and drawing. And, indeed, if any one art is deemed more important than others in the Waldorf universe, it is eurythmy, the spiritual form of dance instituted by Rudolf Steiner. [See "Eurythmy".]
To keep things in their proper context, however, we should acknowledge that Waldorf education is not fundamentally devoted to the arts generally nor to any one art in particular. Fundamentally, Waldorf education is devoted to a spiritual worldview: Anthroposophy. Everything in the Waldorf curriculum, including the arts, receives its ultimate rationale from Rudolf Steiner's occult teachings. From the Waldorf perspective, nothing else, in the end, really matters. Although the San Francisco Classical Voice accepts the standard Waldorf denial concerning religion ("the education is...not religious"), in fact everything at Waldorf is based on the Anthroposophical religion, and everything serves that religion. [See "Here's the Answer" and "Schools as Churches". For concise summaries of Waldorf views on art and beauty, see Waldorf Straight Talk: and .]
* In Waldorf belief, we have three invisible bodies in addition to our physical bodies. The astral body is the second of the three invisible bodies.
** That is, the spirit realm.
*** Note Steiner’s use of the word “secret.” Occultism centers on secrets: knowledge that initiates have but the rest of us don’t. This is the basis of Steiner’s claim to being a spiritual guide: He possessed occult spiritual secrets. To a lesser extent, Waldorf teachers who are devoted to Steiner’s doctrines believe that they share such secrets. And secrets don’t remain secret if they are revealed to others, for instance you and me.
**** Religion is certainly alive in Waldorf education; but whether that religion is truly Christian is, at best, debatable. [See "Was He Christian?" and "Sun God".]
To visit other pages in this section of Waldorf Watch, use the underlined links, below.
◊◊◊ 5. THE WALDORF APPROACH ◊◊◊
Some illustrations on each page here at Waldorf Watch
are closely connected to the essay on that page;
others are not — they provide general context.
 THE GOETHEANUM: School of Spiritual Science (Philosophical-Anthroposophical Press, 1961), p. 25.
Here is a more complete statement of Steiner's view of the arts. An abyss separates Earthly life from the spirit realm. "Supersensible" cognition — that is, gaining knowledge through extraordinary means, specifically clairvoyance — enables us to pass over the abyss. The arts are especially helpful in this effort. They are a replacement for ordinary religion, which Steiner said is dead. (His own teachings, Anthroposophy, are the substitute — they are the religion pushed by Waldorf schools, although Anthroposophists shy away from the word "religion.")
 Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 247.
Eurythmy is "visible speech": A poem or other text is enacted in such a way as to express its meaning through physical motion. Steiner had very strict views on this.
Steiner taught that eurythmy has curative powers.
Media accounts of Waldorf events are often superficial, failing to mention Steiner’s spiritualistic purposes. (One reason may be that these purposes are unimaginable to most people, so the need to delve into Steiner’s doctrines doesn’t occur to many. And, of course, reporters working on deadline don’t have much time for serious research of this sort.) Here is part of an item that appeared in early February, 2009. I will withhold the name of the school involved:
The article says nothing about linking people directly to the supersensible world. Parents considering a Waldorf school for their children probably should bring Steiner quotations to meetings with school representatives. Ask for clear, convincing explanations of the quotations. Also seek convincing explanations of the school's policies and goals. It would be especially important to determine, if possible, the depth of that particular Waldorf school's devotion to Anthroposophy. [See "Advice for Parents" and "Clues".]
 Rudolf Steiner, THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION (Anthroposophic Press, 1964), p. 23.
 Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SEEN IN THE LIGHT OF MYSTERY WISDOM (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2010), p. 111.
 Rudolf Steiner, lecture given on October 15, 1911, quoted in ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, John Fletcher (Mercury Arts Publications, 1987), p. 95.
 Rudolf Steiner, UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1993), pp. 160-161.
The walls may be painted in a special way intended to be conducive to spirituality.
 ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, p. 136.
Steiner taught that we live in the physical world, the soul world, and the spirit world. He distinguished between soul and spirit. The soul is your personal spiritual essence and is renewed with each incarnation; your spirit partakes of higher spiritual essences and is immortal. The spirit world can be termed devachanic:
“Devas” are gods. The gods of the astral world speak to us through colors:
 ART INSPIRED BY RUDOLF STEINER, p. 136.
 UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN BEING, p. 162.
Devachan is the world of spirit, the devachanic world. If Devachan is higher than the astral world, then music is “higher” than art forms that use physical colors or sounds.
 THE ARTS AND THEIR MISSION OF THE ARTS, pp. 40-41.
 ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY , p. 238.
 Ibid., p. 240.
Literature is often read aloud in Waldorf schools, sometimes as accompaniment for eurythmy. The purpose is occult.
Through the "proper" use of speech, one can hook into the powers and wisdom of the ancients — primarily clairvoyance. The ancients had clairvoyance, most of us now don't, but we all can have it — in a new, improved form — by following Steiner's instructions. The process entails moving upward from imagination to other clairvoyant capacities.
 Rudolf Steiner, ÜBER GESUNDHEIT UND KRANKHEIT (Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1994), GA 348, p. 189.
 This is a big and horrible topic. [See “Steiner’s Racism”.]
 ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY, p. 241.
 Ibid., p. 241.
 Henry Barnes, A LIFE FOR THE SPIRIT: Rudolf Steiner in the Crosscurrents of Our Time (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), pp. 185-186.
Full disclosure: I knew Henry Barnes, slightly. He headed up the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City during the years when I was a student at the Waldorf School in Garden City, New York.
 For concise Anthroposophical summaries of human history, past and future, see Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002) and Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989). My summary, here, draws on their summaries.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE CYCLE OF THE YEAR AS BREATHING PROCESS OF THE EARTH (Anthroposophic Press, 1984), p. 11.
 Rudolf Steiner, THE FESTIVALS AND THEIR MEANING (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1998).
 Here is more on the Waldorf celebration of Michaelmas, this time discussed by the Washington Waldorf School (Maryland, USA). Michaelmas is only one of many festivals and similar events celebrated at Waldorf schools, but it makes a particularly good example of the reasoning that lies behind such celebrations.
The Washington Waldorf School is more upfront about its mystical views than are many other Waldorf or Steiner schools. Still, the Washington account of Michaelmas omits a lot. Michaelmas at Waldorf schools honors the Archangel of the Sun, Michael, who is the champion of the Sun God, aka Christ. According to Waldorf belief, Michael helps the Sun God ward off the evil effects of two mighty demons, Lucifer and Ahriman. Lucifer threatens humanity with false spirituality, Ahriman threatens humanity with materialism, including the use of intellect (i.e., the rational brain, a material organ). "Michael stands in this activity between the Luciferic World-picture and the Ahrimanic World-intellect." — Rudolf Steiner. [See "Michael". Also see "Sun God", "Lucifer", and "Ahriman".] One problem Waldorf schools must grapple with is that — awkwardly for "educational" institutions — they distrust the use of the brain. [See, e.g., "Steiner's Specific — Thinking Without Our Brains" and "Materialism U."]
Waldorf students who absorb their teachers' understanding of the events, beings, and concepts depicted in Waldorf festivals and other celebrations — these students are absorbing Anthroposophy. [For other reports on Michaelmas at Waldorf schools, see several stories at the Waldorf Watch Annex. There you will also find indications of the ways Waldorf schools impress their doctrines on students through "underlying themes in stories, drama, poetry, music, painting, and drawing."]
Waldorf beliefs are extremely strange. But don't be misled. Anthroposophists serving as Waldorf faculty members genuinely embrace these beliefs, and they genuinely want their students to embrace them also, sooner or later. [See, e.g., "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]